I was talking with one of my athletes this week about goal setting and her future plans. When I started to talk about next season, she answered back to me “let’s get through my next marathon and then we’ll come back to that.” I understand the sentiment, but I didn’t agree with it and here’s why.
Our training comes together like a puzzle. There are many different elements that come into the mix, some of which are designed to impact us right now and others that are designed to work on building strengths that can contribute to our future performances. As a coach, I know it is my job to make sure that every workout counts, ensuring that every workout has a purpose and is advancing the athlete toward a particular goal. But there are often opportunities to work on future goals right now in the context of the athlete’s current goals.
Let me give you an example. A typical training plan for a marathon will include plenty of goal-paced runs for their current marathon. At the same time, the runner is undergoing speed and interval work that is making them a faster runner. On the one hand, this is useful in building fitness for the current marathon, but it is also useful in establishing a faster pace for the next marathon. The choice at hand then becomes, when do we begin adding short goal paced runs at the next season’s goal pace (which will be faster than this season’s.) As we approach the end of the season, we might add in some 4-6 mile runs at a slightly faster pace than the current goal marathon pace, which will become the basis for a new progression of long runs after the current marathon is completed. This new goal pace is somewhere between the current goal pace and the athlete’s tempo pace — sometimes I call this “push pace”, by which I mean that as the body has become used to running at the current goal pace it likes to push a little faster and this may be closer to next season’s goal pace.
All of this is to say that some level of thought about next season can be helpful in finishing out this season. If the athlete starts thinking about next season and aims to go faster in their next marathon then the approach might be to start doing some early work now, rather than later for next season’s races.
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